“Where She Went” by Gayle Forman is the sequel to “If I Stay” which follows Mia after she has been in a terrible car accident that killed her family. She is in a coma and has to make a decision – either move on into the unknown, or stay and fight for her life. It was a very powerful book and I highly enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect from the sequel, and since I avoid reading book synopsizes I did not know until I opened the book that this story is told from Adam’s perspective. He was Mia’s boyfriend in “If I Stay” and in “Where She Went” we get to see how such a powerful event affected him.
“I have the kind of life a lot of people would probably sell a kidney to just experience a bit of. But still, I find the need to remind myself of the temporariness of a day, to reassure myself that I got through yesterday, I’ll get through today.” (Where She Went, pg 3). I thought this was a pretty depressing way to start a book, but I didn’t expect the sequel to a book where a girl loses her entire family to start off full of rainbows. It took me a bit to realize that this wasn’t Mia’s reflection and that the book wasn’t focused around her. I liked the fact that she was still a character in the novel, but she wasn’t the main one. Through Adam’s perspective, we are able to experience the aftermath of what an event like that does to a person.
“Where She Went” focused a lot on grief and how it is different for everyone. I loved this quote: “After all, I lost them, too. Except even back then, it had been different, like there’d been a barrier. That’s the thing you never expect about grieving, what a competition it is. Because no matter how important they’d been to me, no matter how sorry people told me they were, Denny and Kat and Teddy weren’t my family, and suddenly that distinction had mattered.” (Where She Went, pg 185). I remember the first death that really changed me. It was an acquaintance from school and he died in a car accident and every year in late April, I think about this guy and his family. But he wasn’t a close friend and it was almost like it wasn’t a death I was allowed to grieve. I think that Gayle Forman illustrates well how grief doesn’t only affect the core family. Having to live in a world where someone you loved is no longer alive is tremendously difficult.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, it was a great read. I admire Gayle Forman’s writing and I look forward to reading more of her work. The language in her books isn’t overly complex, but the heaviness of what she writes about makes you really stop and think while reading. I think that Forman’s books would appeal to quite a large audience. “Where She Went” is so relatable, I think anyone that has had their life touched by death would appreciate this book.
Every once and awhile, a book comes along that is so fantastic that you just don’t know how to go on with your life when it is over. For me, this was “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. It is a book that changes you when you read it.
“The Book Thief” is told from a unique perspective. The story is told by Death and the story he tells is of a girl he has run into a few times. The story he tells is hers. We meet Liesel when she is on her way to a foster home. She is on a train with her mother and little brother. It is the first time that Death meets Liesel, when he comes to collect her brother. “Yes, the sky was now a devastating, home-cooked red. The small German town had been flung apart one more time. Snowflakes of ash fell so loveily you were tempted to stretch out your tongue to catch them, taste them. Only, they would have scorched your lips. They would have cooked your mouth.” (The Book Thief, pg 13). Throughout the story, Death remembers the colors that he sees and it creates a very visual story telling that I couldn’t help but be captivated by.
Death takes the time to tell Liesel’s story despite the fact that war is a very busy time for him. It was very different reading about WWII from the perspective of Death. It was horrible and fascinating all at the same time.
Liesel becomes a book thief for the first time when she is putting her brother in the ground. The first book that she steals is “The Gravedigger’s Handbook” and she does it almost unconsciously when she sees the book dropped in the snow. Thus begins her life of crime. Her passion for books builds greatly as she discovers the freedom in reading. She also discovers the power that books have and she shares this when she can. “Where Hans Hubermann and Erik Vandenburg were ultimately united by music, Max and Liesel were held together by the quiet gathering of words.” (The Book Thief, pg 248).
Part of what I enjoyed so much about this book is the way I was able to relate to Liesel so well. The way that she feels about books is exactly how I feel about books. I could totally see myself in her shoes. She is a very likable character. “She said it out loud, the words distributed into a room that was full of cold air and books. Books everywhere! Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate shelving. It was barely possible to see the paintwork. There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the gray, the every-colored books. It was one of the most beautiful things Liesel Meminger had ever seen.” (The Book Thief, pg 134). This is frequently how I feel when let loose in a bookstore or my personal library.
Would I recommend this book? Most definitely, it was such a good read. I really admire how Markus Zusak writes and I look forward to reading more of his work. I think that reading “The Book Thief” made me see just how war affects the individual. It’s quite different to read about a girl who had the war happen around her as she grew up. How differently it affected her and those she knew. The uncertainties that she was forced to live with. The fear. And through all these trials, she found solace in reading. It was a fantastic read.